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Eurozone Ministers Say Greek Austerity Plan Not Ready


A pedestrian walks by a Eurobank advertisement featuring a 1-euro coin in Athens on February 8.

A pedestrian walks by a Eurobank advertisement featuring a 1-euro coin in Athens on February 8.

Eurozone ministers have cast doubt over a new Greek austerity plan, as they meet in Brussels to discuss a crucial international bailout to prevent the country from going bankrupt.
Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, arriving to chair talks among the finance ministers of the 17 eurozone countries, said there were too many "points to clear up" for Greece to get the go-ahead for the money it needs.
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said the Greek plan was "not at a stage where it can be signed off."
Both said there would not be a result at the February 9 meeting.
"I don't think that we will have a definite and final decision tonight. We have to discuss several elements of the proposals which will be submitted to us. I don't think that will have the final decision today. This is not a disaster," Juncker said.
The ministers gathered hours after Greek political leaders announced they had agreed on reforms required to secure a 130-billion-euro ($172 billion) bailout from the European Union, the International Monetary Fund, and the European Central Bank.
Without the money, Greece could go bankrupt as early as mid-March, threatening other indebted economies in the eurozone and sending tremors around the global economy.
Talks on the reforms had dragged on for days, prompting EU officials to repeatedly warn that Greece was running out of time.
There were no immediate details on the deal reached, but unions have already called a 48-hour strike in protest on February 10-11.
The new austerity measures demanded by international creditors include cuts in pensions and the minimum wage as well as job losses.
As he arrived for the Brussels meeting, Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos called on his counterparts to endorse the bailout.
He said Athens had reached a deal with EU and IMF officials on a "new, strong, and credible program" of cuts as well as an agreement with private creditors on the "basic parameters" of a debt write-down.
IMF chief Christine Lagarde, who is also attending the talks in Brussels, said there was more work to do but that the agreement in Athens was a "really positive start to the evening."
EU Economy Commissioner Olli Rehn said Greece still needs to “convince its European partners” before a second bailout package can be agreed.
Greece has been falling further into recession since it was rescued by a first bailout deal in May 2010.
The latest unemployment data show the country's jobless rate rose to a new record of nearly 21 percent in November.

Compiled from agency reports
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